Monday 27 April 2020

SEA FEVER review

Studying the behaviours of aquatic life, marine biologist Siobhan (Hermione Corfield) boards a small Irish fishing trawler going out to sea in order to examine their catch, but when Skipper Gerard (Dougray Scott) takes the vessel into an exclusion zone, something attaches itself to the boat and begins to force its way through the hull and into their water supply. With the whole crew in danger, Siobhan must work out what is attacking them and how to get rid of it, quickly.

Sea Fever hits you with a sense of impending doom immediately, as the crew take a dislike to Siobhan as she sets foot on the trawler due to her red hair (notoriously bad luck at sea). Only the more rationally minded fisherman Johnny (Jack Hickey) and engineer Omid (Ardalan Esmaili) will give the already timid researcher the time of day, until the skipper ignores an order from the coastguard and the crew end up stranded at sea with no radio to call for help.

Director Neasa Hardiman has primarily worked in television before this, including some high profile dramas like Scott & Bailey and her work on Happy Valley that earned her a BAFTA, before a move to more science fiction, effects heavy fare with Marvel shows The Inhumans and Jessica Jones. Sea Fever is her first produced feature script, and shows a step towards bringing her dramatic and genre work together. Rather than deep diving into special effects bonanza territory in the vein of The Abyss, Sea Fever uses what visual effects it has (including cool looking bio-electric tendrils coming from what's beneath) sparingly, instead relying on its script to create as much tension as possible. Most of these moments come from simple ideas executed well, like a standout scene where Siobhan checks for infection by passing a flashlight over someone's eyeball. It's also here where the film clearly tips its sailor hat to a number of genre classics that have preceded it.

If you put a group of rough and ready characters together (some likeable, most not) in a single location to be attacked by an unknown entity, it would be hard to avoid comparisons to Ridley Scott's Alien and John Carpenter's The Thing. Well, at least Sea Fever is smart enough to know those comparisons are inevitable, and despite hitting a number of similar beats (a visit to another stranded vessel to see the fate of its crew seems like a very clear nod to The Thing, for example) it subverts them enough to never seem like it's a mere imitation. This is an intelligent, scientific sci-fi, and it's been too long since we had one of those.

A strong selling point for Sea Fever is how oddly timely it is, considering the current Covid-19 pandemic it couldn't have possibly predicted. As discussions on board turn to quarantine and the possibility of accidentally infecting others on the mainland, the in-fighting and self-preservation instincts seems very reminiscent of a whole host of broadsheet newspaper think-pieces doing the rounds at the moment. The similarity might have been accidental, but it would be no bad thing if Sea Fever got a little Contagion-style bump whilst people are looking for things to watch in lockdown.

No big budget effects, just inventive twists on classic genre stylings. Sea Fever is a mightily impressive piece of small budget filmmaking, and the perfect example of what can be done with a good script and a knowledgeable writer/director at the helm.


Signature Entertainment presents Sea Fever on Blu-ray & Digital HD from April 24th

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